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Third Sunday

In the book of Genesis, it reports that God walked in the Garden of Eden. I image one particular day that God enters the garden and asks, “Where are they? They usually come right over when I come to the garden. The other day they were so excited, they said, ‘we think there is something wrong with the horses, they have really long necks.’ They’re not horses, I explained, they are giraffes. I gave those fellas a long neck so they could eat high off the branches. And then yesterday they came running to me and said, ‘We were in the sea and this monster leaps out of the water.’ I said, Oh That is a whale; it will not hurt you. Meanwhile, Adam is hiding behind a bush because he just ate the forbidden fruit. He is hiding and thinking, “I hope He leaves; I hope God goes away.” That is evil. Evil wants God to go away, to depart from us. Grace is the opposite of evil. It wants God to come and stay. That is why Mary was called “full-of-Grace” by the angel, she wanted God to come and stay among us. It was through Mary that we have Emmanuel “God is with us.” Why am I telling you this? Because Paul is writing to the Corinthians and he says to them grace and peace be with you. Let me explain what grace means.

The pastor at my first assignment asked me to start a youth group. One Friday I get a call from one of the kids in the group and he asked me, if they could have a dance that night. I said, “Of course not. We don’t have enough time. I have to go to the printer and make posters, then we have to get permission to post them in the schools, and someone has to go around and put them up. You should have asked me a week ago. The kid on the phone replied, “You just have the dance and we will all be there.” I said “Alright, but I bet no one is going to show up.” Around eight at night I walked into the hall and there were over two hundred and fifty kids. As I was walking around the kids thanked me for giving them their dance. I said, “I didn’t do anything. I just said fine, and that was it.” When we have grace that is what we will be saying: “It wasn’t I.”

Jeanne Jordan was 47 years old. She brought in a blind, elderly woman to live with her. A few women noticed and went to Jeanne and said they were impressed and inspired by her charity. They wanted to imitate her, so they formed a religious community. Today, the Little Sisters of the Poor are in thirty countries and they have imitated the love of their founder about a million times over. If Jeanne came here today and we ask her: How did your congregation grow so strong and so many people have benefited from your order. She would respond, “It wasn’t I.” All I did was to help a blind elderly woman.”

Dad had cancer several years ago. I recommended he go to the MGH. Dad said, “I don’t know how to get there.” I said, “I will take you.” Dad found a really great doctor and the operation was a success. Just before the operation, however, Dad had to wait about a half-hour. Sometimes the waiting is the hardest part of the ordeal. I sat with him and just before he entered the operating room asked, how he was holding up. He said, “Peter, it is completely out of my hands which is a good thing. Now I am in better hands.” Dad perfectly described grace.

One time I was called to the hospital to anoint a patient who was going to be taken off of life support. When I got there, the family was gathered around a man who was heavily sedated and unresponsive. I anointed the man, spent a few minutes with the family and left. A few years later, someone came over to me and said, “I don’t think you remember me, but you came and anointed my father before we were going to take him off of life support. I wanted you to know that just after you left, my father started to improve. He walked out of the hospital two weeks later. I wanted to thank you. Naturally I was thrilled to get such good news and to be a part of such a wonderful event but I said to him, “It wasn’t I, it was my working Partner.”

Remember Adam who was hiding behind the bush and hoped God would go away? Don’t do that. Never ask God to leave, no matter what happens. We need God. The next time you read the letter of Paul and he says, “May the grace of God be with you,” you will know what it means.

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